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[Photo: Kathy YL Chan]

Ninth Avenue is littered with Thai restaurants of every size, but this is one I'll return to on a consistent basis. Pure Thai Shophouse opened only two weeks ago, but the crowds and regulars already seem established. A gentleman walking in for a solo lunch noted that he'll have his "usual," and the owner greeted another individual coming to pick up his daily takeout.

Come alone, and they'll seat you at a bar seat facing the kitchen; space is tight and there's not much room for movement, but it's not a restaurant you'll linger at. Ratchaburi Crab & Pork Dry Noodle ($7) is the signature house dish, and one you ought to try on the first visit. (I ordered it on my second and third trips as well.) Fresh housemade egg noodles serve as the base, resilient and chewy, paired with meaty slices of roasted pork—succulent, if not as tender as Ippudo's. Hand-picked lump crap meat, steamed yu choy, sliced peppers, and scallion round out the light, delicately seasoned dish. And for $2, you can add a handful of fried pork cracklings—certainly something to consider. The Ratchaburi Noodle is served dry (without soup), but wet and dry options are offered with the other four noodle dishes on the menu.

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Alternatively, you can compose lunch from a few "snack"-sized dishes. There are ten different plates in total, all priced $2-3 per plate (prices double during dinner hours). The Crispy Shrimp Sesame Crepe, pictured above, features shrimp mousse over a "tortilla" base, topped with paper thin slices of lime, black and white sesame seeds, and a kaffir lime curd. It's my favorite of the snack dishes, a colorful tangle of flavors, colors, and temperatures. The shrimp mousse is something like a dish of Vietnamese shrimp mousse wrapped around sugar cane and grilled; the tortilla is thin, salty, and fried. Lime and a coordinated curd add pucker; toasted sesame seeds, a bit of nuttiness.

Fried dishes are another highlight at Pure Thai, including the simple and straightforward Crispy Tofu, a duo of caramelized chicken- and sweet potato-stuffed Chicken Curry Puffs, and the Vegetable Spring Rolls—three to an order, expertly stuffed with shitake mushrooms, jicama, and glass noodles. And on top of that, there's a whole section of the menu I've yet to devour—I've got my eye on spicy Chili Turmeric with Beef and Calamari Ginger Curry for the next visit.

Pure Thai Shophouse

766 9th Avenue, New York NY 10019 (map)


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